B2W Radio: Community Economic Development – A New Era

Birth2Work Radio guest Jeff Finkle is a recognized leader and international authority on economic development. As President and CEO of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the world’s largest economic development membership organization, he contributes his expertise on community revitalization, business development and job creation to projects nationwide. Of the many things covered in this program, one of the primary issues is a sea change in perspective from community economic developers across the country. The shift is marked and significant, in that developers have shifted their goals from the thinking that bringing in large manufacturers was the basis for sustainable economic growth, to looking inward and supporting entrepreneurial vision at the local level.

Whereas manufacturing jobs have, in the last several generations, created enormous swaths of dying towns in the “Rust Belt” of our country due to international outsourcing, local entrepreneurs tend to work smaller and hire locally. And although, as citizens, we inherently recognize this as a positive thing, local leadership has done a poor job in the recent past of reinforcing the necessity of buying locally and supporting local businesses. It’s true, too, though, that local manufacturers and businesses have to be supported by the entire community in which they set up. They need community infrastructure that supports them not only through local government and business incentives for operation, but with the promise of a workforce that is well educated and a community where those entrepreneurs want to live and raise their families. And therein lies the question of the decade: how do currently suffering communities recover to become the successful and sustainable communities of the future?

Community economic development requires a national perspective, but local decision making. For no matter the number of “friends” you have in cyberspace, it’s your immediate neighbors you’ll rely on to pull you out of the rubbish in an emergency. From car repair to health care, it’s the local community that organically supports each of us to live healthy, happy, sustainable lives.

Jeff Finkle